Let’s get thing very clear – FIFA 18 on Switch is missing a lot of the features present on other systems. Most notably, perhaps, is the lack of The Journey, a story mode of sorts that has you following the cinematic journey of Alex Hunter as he makes his, er, journey through the sport. Despite this and other shortcuts made to bring EA’s behemoth sports series to Nintendo’s hybrid, it’s a really enjoyable way to play the game.
Once the announcement was made that FIFA would be on Switch back in January 2017, my decision was made. A PS4 player of FIFA since 2014, my system of choice for the newest version would be on Switch. Part of it was perhaps making a commitment to a new Nintendo system, but part of it was the idea of playing FIFA on the go.
Now, going from the PS4 version of FIFA to the Switch version is a great way to expose anything not quite equal about the game. My main area of play is always career. On Switch, all the essential elements are there, but extra mechanics are notably missing. In FIFA 17 on PS4, you were given extra sub-targets as manager of your club, such as keeping fans happy, and bringing youth players through. These are nowhere in FIFA 18 on Switch.
The thing is, it barely matters when playing. There are core reasons why FIFA has been so consistently fun for so, so many years, and it isn’t down to the statistics of how many fictional t-shirts you have sold. It’s down to the satisfying and rewarding gameplay, and developing officially-licensed players and teams. Crucially, this is where Switch really accentuates the game, in ways the other systems simply cannot. As a consequence, it pushes the little niggles out of your mind.
It’s no revelation to point towards the handheld side of the system for this. For a long time, Nintendo and fans of the company have tried to use innovations to make up for a lack of visual parity in third-party games. Look at the motion controls for the likes of Call of Duty on Wii, or having a map (!) on your controller whilst playing Mass Effect 3: Special Edition on Wii U. They never quite bridged the gap. With Switch, it’s finally happened.
It’s the same reason Doom and Skyrim are so enticing on Switch. They probably don’t look quite as good, and maybe they can’t run in 4K. However, the practicality of having that experience in the palm of your hands gives a genuine reason to choose Switch as you platform of choice. Dark Souls Remastered was just announced for several platforms, including Switch – the conversation of that was dominated by Dark Souls being portable now, even though the Switch version has a lower frame rate than the others.
Let’s bring it back to FIFA 18. The joy of huddling up in bed and playing a couple of matches is an experience unique to Switch. Furthermore, the inherent portability of the console makes it so easy to play a game, put it in sleep mode, come back later and immediately boot back up. As an added bonus, the soundtrack that comes with FIFA can make the Switch a makeshift portable music player if you’re desperate…
At the end of the day, it’s still a solid FIFA experience. It plays well. It has the bizarre, sometimes glitchy moments of any FIFA. It makes you want to keep playing. The visuals are solid, if not as crisp as other systems – player faces look good, and animations work well. What could have been a deal-breaker would be a lack of Ultimate Team, the phenomenally popular online mode where you play others, earn packs and players, and improve your team. FIFA 13 on Wii U suffered big-time for not having this mode, but Switch has it, and once again, the main experience is all present. Maybe a new side mode or two isn’t present, but the majority of your time is going into the central matchmaking and competitions that are there. Importantly, the Switch version gets updated alongside all the others.
A running theme here is that everything you really need from FIFA 18 is here, with the Switch factor more than making up for anything that isn’t. You’ve got career, you’ve got Ultimate Team; when cosily playing FIFA in an armchair, does it matter if you can’t purchase a special skin for the ball? At heart, FIFA is about the gameplay experience that keeps you coming back, and the Switch improves on that.
Third-parties can find a place on Switch – scrap that, they already have, and other publishers are realising it. This system has a unique selling point that speaks to people, diversifying and improving on the games released for it. However, EA, be warned – FIFA 19 doesn’t have the launch-year excuse. Switch better be getting those balls and whistles this year (look, the pun is so good, I had to use it again)!
P. S. FIFA 18 is great in handheld mode, but do be careful. That console is pretty light, and FIFA leads to frustrating moments sometimes…